A Longer Stone Door Loop :: Savage Gulf State Natural Area

The Great Stone Door trail is a pretty well known and easy trail with a great payoff. But, driving almost 2 hours for a mile of hiking doesn’t quite make sense to me, so I made a 7 mile loop connecting the Stone Door Trail to the Big Creek Rim and Laurel Trails for a nice longer, but relatively easy hike.

The entirety of the hike is on the plateau/rim so most of this loop is flat, but not without some views of the gulf along the Big Creek Rim trail. The rest of the trail meanders through a wooded area on the plateau, making for a nice walk in the woods. The total mileage is around 7 miles, so it may be a great way to try out a longer hike without a challenge from the terrain. Taking this route, you won’t descend into the gulf, so you won’t have to navigate steep or rocky terrain, if you’re looking to avoid that.

The loop I did makes a fantastic beginner backpacking loop with a camp at Alum Gap and a side trip to Greeter Falls. (Remember, there’s no overnight parking at the Greeter Falls trailhead!) Of course there’s the always stunning views from Stone Door, but Big Creek Rim has a few great overlooks and bluff-side walking as well. The Laurel trail is probably one of the least diverse and interesting in the area, but it is full of lush ferns and greenery. And when I hike from the Stone Door trailhead, I always pop by Laurel Falls because it only add on .2 miles. (The mini loop starts right behind the ranger station.) You can also walk-in camp at Stone Door but it can get crowded and out especially on the weekends.

This loop isn’t going to blow you away compared to others in the area, but it’s nice to mix things up and try a new route. Connecting Stone Door to Big Creek Rim and Laurel trials makes for a good long-ish day hike in one of the most beautiful places in Tennessee. It’s also great to build stamina for longer hikes. You’ll clock over 7 miles of relatively flat trail, so it’s great to build up to a longer hike!

Distance from Nashville: 1hr 45 min

Trailhead: Stone Door Ranger Station (Savage Gulf North Trailhead)

Trail: Loop formed by Stone Door, Big Creek Rim, Laurel (route in red)

Link to trail map: Savage Gulf State Natural Area Trail Map (left side of map)

Length of Trail: easy 7 miles, allow 3-4 hours

Campsites: Stone Door (close to parking, walk-in) and Alum Gap (about three miles from trailhead, backcountry)

Overview: Great overlooks and geological wonders plus a little waterfall and some woods walkin’. (For a shorter hike, just do the Stone Door Trail as an out-and-back.)

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Bearwaller Gap :: Cordell Hull Lake, Carthage, TN

I’ve been hearing about this trail around the hiking folk and was waiting for the perfect time to do it. Since it was a kind of a longer hike, I wanted to do it as an overnight backpack.


The trial is a 6 mile point-to-point trail (12 miles total unless you have two cars) with a campground about halfway from either end. It’s a nice open campground with a covered spring for water (although it was a little low when I was there, but still could get enough to filter), an outhouse (nice try, but it was kinda gross, just went outside like a real camper), and firewood available. I had a nice little evening there and even got a good fire going.


The trail itself is decently difficult with lots of elevation changes (I think a total of over 2000 feet). It follows the Cordell Hull lake, which is a dammed up part of the Cumberland River. There’s some classic outdoor critters like ticks and squirrels and supposedly snakes. But, thank God I didn’t see any of those.

It’s an overall nice hike. It was a little overgrown and there were entire HUGE trees down over some parts of the trail, like so bad, you couldn’t see where the trail went and you just had to keep climbing over the logs. But all part of the adventure. I also lost the trail for a bit and had to climb straight up a 45 degree angle hill to get back to the trail so that was an adventure.

Trail OVergrowth

Trail Overgrowth


Distance from Nashville: 1 hr

Getting to the trailhead: There’s 2 sides to start from: Tater Knob Overlook or Defeated Creek Campground, the hike is great from both sides. I started at the Defeated Creek side, which is the post popular starting place.

Trail: Bearwaller Gap Trail (See my route below; started and ended at circle and camped at Two Prong)

Link to trail map: Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail Map

Length of trail: 11.2 miles

Brief overview: Moderately difficult trail with lots of elevation change, lake (which is really just a portion the Cumberland River dammed up) and a nice backcountry campground.